Teaching Toddlers About Pets

Toddler with Kitten

Your toddler is reaching the age of exploration and takes new interest in your pet. Children are never too young to learn how to treat pets, especially at this stage.

The most important thing to remember is never leave you toddler unattended with your pet. You must be there to supervise playtime and any time. The best pets can become irritated with this member of the family, once only carried in your arms, now at eye level on the floor, beginning to crawl and walk.

Consider purchasing stuffed animals representing your pets to use as teaching tools. Demonstrating with toys, you toddler learns not pull ears and tails, squeeze, grab a fistful of fur or hit toys. Transferring the teaching to your pet and with your direction, a firm no when doing something unacceptable and showing the correct way, your toddler will learn that pets are living beings with feelings and will learn to respect them.

When interacting with your pet, there should be no rough play such as tug of war. If your pet becomes too excited, time out may be necessary. Teach your child not to run from or scream at an excited pet. If an animal rushes towards your child, he/she should learn to stand still, covering face or chest with arms and speak very softly. Animals become more excited and chase after someone running and/or screaming.

Your pet and your toddler will enjoy playing Frisbee, tossing a ball, blowing bubbles for your pet to catch, hide and seek. Make sure your pet has a safe place to escape to such as a crate if things become aggressive on either side.

Involve your toddler in the care of your pet. If your toddler is able to handle a food bowl, have her/him set the food down for your pet. Instruct your child not to touch a pet while it is eating. Also, touching a pet while sleeping can startle the pet and cause it to strike out.

Have your toddler assist with brushing and bathing your pet. You all may get wet, but it can be a fun learning experience.

If your pet shows any signs of aggression, first take him/her to your vet to make sure there are no medical reasons. If a physical problem is ruled out, consider seeking the advice of an animal behaviorist.

No pets at home, but you are planning to get one? You can visit zoos with petting centers and make trips to your local animal shelter to accustom your toddler to pets.

Remember that children learn by example. They will treat animals with kindness and respect if you do.

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